We had a bunch of virtual social activities in the orientation week of my summer internship. There were 55 of us summer interns, and one of the activities was sharing a favorite picture or a memory. I cannot say I enjoyed all the games we played, particularly If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you want to be?, which seems like it would be a fun game during Covid, but it was one of my bad days so the only place I could think of was home. (It was my fourth month alone in my apartment so…)
I landed in Atlanta on August 5, 2019. I was to stay temporarily in a senior’s apartment not far from where I live now, before moving in here. Another Gatech-bound student and I got off at the building, my network wasn’t working and he wasn’t able to get through to his friend to let us inside. So we waited on the pavement with all our luggage for somebody to show up and open the gate for us. That’s when I clicked my first picture in Atlanta, which is what I shared in the Photo-share activity.
Waiting outside with 50kg of luggage on my first day in a foreign country with no phone network is not something I’m familiar with, but the frame before me (apart from being obviously clean and well-maintained) was hot, humid and green, just like my home. This photo was a moment of taking it all in, realizing that Atlanta might not be too unfamiliar territory after all.
(While sharing with everyone, I mentioned for context that I was from Kerala, the “tropics” where it’s humid and full of trees, so this scene felt a lot like home, even while being away from home.)
It rained later that day and I had a beautiful view from the room I was staying in. Shruthy wasn’t arriving until two days later, and I wasn’t jet-lagged so I just sat in the room watching the sunset and vehicles go by.
I hadn’t met the senior whose room I stayed in, but I saw her books and her desk, a couple of framed photos. And I hadn’t imagined a lot about this place (Atlanta or college) before coming here either, so it was just a lot of observing and taking in, than Aah’s or Ooh’s.
Ikea was right across the road (behind those trees) and I could see inside the building at 2am, past the scant traffic. I saw people climbing stairs in those hours, and for a while I simply sat on my bed and watched somebody sitting at his desk, like I expected something to happen, but nothing did. It was a great view to Ikea as well and I probably would’ve spent a lot of time just looking at it had we continued to live there, the way I watch the trees here.
Even while it wasn’t my favorite of plans, this country and a lot of people here have been extremely kind to me in the time I’ve been here. I’ve got to witness chaos – good and bad – especially in the last few months. Some days I marvel that it’s happening right before me, that I get to learn, witness and be a part of it, while some days the history overwhelms and exhausts me. But maybe that’s the way it should be. And I do love that it’s hot, humid and green here.